Legalese — Recording in the Courtroom

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When you think of Courtrooms, either in real life or on television, you always picture a court reporter in the room.  The court reporter is the person whose job it is to accurately take down exactly who said what and in what order.  This is a hugely important job – the court reporter preserves the record for appeal and makes sure that no word or important gesture gets lost.  They generally use machines which record voices and/or use a special shorthand they have to go to school to learn.

Of course, technology has evolved over the years, and court reporters’ transcripts can be expensive.  If you aren’t using the recording for an official purpose, why can’t you just record what was said on a cell phone?

Rule 22 of the Uniform Superior Court Rules of Georgia addresses this issue, and was last updated in 1997.  In the 21 intervening years, smart phones and laptops and tablets have evolved beyond what could have been reasonably imagined.  And so, a new version of Rule 22 will take effect on May 1, 2018.

The new rule recognizes and emphasizes that “[o]pen courtrooms are an indispensable element of an effective and respected judicial system.”   That said, the privacy of certain participants in the proceedings need to be protected as well.

The new Rule 22 expands the ability of lawyers and self-represented parties to record the proceedings on their own and applies to all Georgia superior courts.  It doesn’t affect federal courts and lower courts.  It also generally prohibits recording “by jurors, witnesses, parties, and spectators, including representatives of the news media.”

The new Rule states, “Unless otherwise ordered by the court, attorneys representing parties in a proceeding and self-represented parties may make audio recordings of the proceeding in a nondisruptive manner after announcing to the court and all parties that they are doing so. Recordings made pursuant to this paragraph may be used only in litigating the case or as otherwise allowed by the court or provided by law.”  It goes on to say that devices like laptops and phones can be used more broadly for information storage and retrieval, word processing, and accessing the internet by lawyers, paralegals, and self-represented parties.  In other words, the Rule makes accommodations for the fact that laptops have gone a long way to replace stacks of papers, reference books, and legal pads.

Of course, even if the activity would normally be permitted, if the judge finds that your use of your device is distracting, the judge can tell you to quit using it.

If you aren’t a lawyer or a non-represented party and you want to record the proceedings, you can submit a request to the judge to allow you do it.  That request is done via a form that is part of the rule.  You can find the whole text of the new rule as well as the form by clicking here.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.  It is being offered for informational purposes, and cannot possibly be used to apply to any particular situation.

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